Saturday, May 17, 2008

Holodilnik

I woke up this morning to the sound of our train's wheels clattering over the joints in the tracks. The wheels said "Holodilnik, holodilnik, holodilnik..." In English, that would be "Refrigerator, refrigerator, refrigerator..." I was freezing. Belarusian trains are not heated after May 3, and the car took in too much of last night's frost for my single blanket to compensate. Alla told me in the morning that we probably could have requested extra blankets, but I got through the night by wrapping my head in a T-shirt.

I liked our train accommodations for the most part. Alla selected a second-class car in order to get two lower berths for us, and I really liked the openness of the car. I could see well out the windows on both sides of the train.

We rode from Gomel to Brest, where we caught a bus to an incredible forest called Belaverskaya Puscha. Our deluxe room has a huge bed, lots of light and a comfortable sitting room. All this is costing us about $50/night. The birds ourside our window are always chirping, chattering and singing; probably thrilled by spring's abundance of mosquitoes.

Aside from the mosquitoes, I have only praise for the environment here. I've had a few quibbles about service issues, but I'd definitely come back for another short visit, perhaps during cross-country ski season. I'd be happy to eat the food here any time.

My service quibbles started with the bikes. We intended to take a couple of their bikes and tour the forest roads, which are generally closed to cars. Unfortunately, while the resort owns a couple of bikes big enough for me, there were no bikes small enough for Alla to stand over the top tube. Failing to find bikes, we tried to arrange a bus tour or even a private motor tour. No dice. We ended up setting out on foot, which was beautiful and fun but we couldn't reach places we wanted to see in the time we had.

Alla tried relentlessly to arrange something for tomorrow, but received steadfast rebuffs to each of her efforts. The only way to guarantee an excursion here is to arrive as a member of a group.

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